The drive to get more youngsters into the industry was kicked off by the UK minister for farming David Heath, who explained that farming and the related industries – such as food engineering and food science – would need to fill thousands more high-skilled posts over the coming years.
According to the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the potential for growth within the food and farming sectors was so big because of the rising global population, which Defra said would lead to an “increasing demand for western-style diets around the world and the need to reduce the environmental footprint of food production”.
Heath announced the plans for the drive at the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday, 2 January. He said: “With a rising world population, Britain has a massive opportunity to grow and export more food, and to do so sustainably. So we need to encourage new blood into the industry.
“I’m not just talking about giving people more access to land or getting them on production lines, but allowing youngsters to really embrace new ideas and technology for rewarding, well-paid careers.”
Supporting the move to grow the number of young workers in the sector is the UK’s Future of Farming Group, which is led by the chairman of the South West Rural and Farming Network David Fursdon. He said: “Producing food more sustainably is a huge challenge and we can only hope to meet it by having the right people entering the industry.
“To make this happen, we want to listen to young people’s experiences to make sure the right people are entering the industry and have the support to establish their businesses.”
The group will also look at the various issues faced by new entrants to the industry, including: entry routes; skills gaps; the wider opportunities offered in agriculture; challenges faced by the new entrants; and the challenges faced by the employers.
The overall aim of the initiative is to get more talented and entrepreneurial young people in the industry, by discovering how to attract them.
Fursdon added: “I’m looking forward to pushing on with this work and building on the work already being carried out within industry to come up with some new ideas.”